Old & Ugly to New & Chic Dining Chairs

12 Materials
15 Hours

I got these chairs for FREE! Someone thought these chairs were garbage, but I saw a great opportunity. I've re-upholstered plenty of chairs, but I never upholstered the back of a chair, but that changed with this project.

Here is where we started. These were clearly dated chairs with faded and stained seats, and a woven cane back rest.

The first thing I did was remove the back. I used a scissors to start cutting it out and then a box cutter and pliers to clean up the edges. Then I removed the seats.

Some of the chairs needed a few repairs that were easily fixed with some wood glue. One chair has a good chunk of wood broken out so I filled it with wood filler and sanded it smooth after it fully dried.

I gave each chair a thorough cleaning with a vinegar and water mixture. After they were all dry, I started painting with Rust-Oleum Chalked Charcoal spray paint. Each chair was also sprayed with Rust-Oleum Clear Matte Top Coat.

For the back, I used a solid color material that matched the design material. Once I stapled the piece of the back that will show, I lined it with a strong felt material and padding before I covered it with the main design. To cover any rough edges/staples, I made upholstery cords by using fabric glue to adhere the fabric to a thin rope. The cords were then hot-glued around the edge of the back rest.

Here are the four final chairs!

Before and After

Resources for this project:
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  • Sjt29229935 Sjt29229935 on Dec 04, 2018

    They turned out lovely, but I too am wondering what you used for support on the backs and seats. I would imagine wood under the padding on the seats, but your instructions did not use any support other than a heavy felt and fabric on the backs. I don't understand how that will be enough to withstand the pressure of people leaning on them. Won't they stretch, give or even let go with the pressure?

  • Fay34273850 Fay34273850 on Dec 07, 2018

    Could you have left the weaving on the chair and sprayed it also and staple the fabric to the weaving?

  • Youruba Youruba on Jan 03, 2019

    What brand of felt did you use? and where did you get it from?

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  • Penelope Penelope on May 24, 2019

    Those chairs look wonderful especially when the before/after pictures are available side by side to compare. Do I plan on doing this project ? Absolutely , I have a very close friend who has been trying to find a way to do just that to a set of similar chairs, that her roommate has already taken apart over a year ago . She will be thrilled . Thank you for your post. I'll send photos when we're through .

  • SUSAN BRUNO SUSAN BRUNO on Dec 02, 2023

    I have an older mahogany color Queen Anne Dining set I need to re-do. I just can't decide if I want to go white, black or refinish the mahogany. Great idea.